As a marina owner in town, Bob Elmy said, he is paying for his business to go elsewhere.
Elmy owns the Champlain Harbor Marina on the west shore of the Champlain Canal and he has been fighting with the town over a free wall for years.
The free wall, a docking spot where boaters can hook up to free electricity and water for 48 hours at time, is taking business away from both Elmy and Ray Faville, the owner of Lock 12 Marina and Finch & Chubb Inn, located on the east side of the canal. Although the free wall is owned and regulated by the New York State Canal Corp., the town of Whitehall pays for the electricity it provides.
On July 31, Elmy said, he saw 21 boats at the free wall, some tethered to each other.
For a boat to stay overnight at his marina, Elmy said, he charges $1.75 per foot.
Since the average boat size is about 30 feet, he said, he is missing out on $52.50 per boat each night a boater chooses the free wall over his marina.
Multiplying $52.50 by 21 boats over a 30-day period and, Elmy said, he loses about $33,000.
"My taxes up here alone are at $18,000 a year."
Those taxes, he said, help pay for the free wall, which is undermining his business.
With a tough economy and a short boating season of about six weeks, Faville said, having a free wall where 21 boats can tie up together takes a lot of revenue away from him.
Elmy and Faville have fought the town every summer since it started in 2001 supplying the free wall with electricity and water, but both said their complaints have been ignored.
"We get the run-around every year. Every year they say next summer we'll do something. Well, next summer, I don't know if Bob and I are going to be here. Actually, I've been here 25 years and this is the worst year I've ever had. People are making cutbacks, especially on the American side. We saw a lot of Canadian traffic, but they tie up on the free wall and it doesn't pay for us to advertise because we're competing against something that's free, and I can't compete," Faville said.
The Whitehall Visitors Center on Skenesborough Drive, next to the free wall, is equipped with bathrooms and showers that are also available for the boaters to use for free.
The visitors center currently houses the town hall, but it is owned by the Canal Corp. and, Elmy said, he thinks that could be the reason the Town Board refuses to address his grievances.
According to Richard Harris, deputy director of the Canal Corp., the state built the free wall in 1912 and it didn't have electricity until the visitors center was built in 2000.
He said the Canal Corp. paid for the wall's electric and water usage until the town took it over in 2001.
In May of 2006, Harris said, the town started using the visitors center as a town hall, but both the town and the Canal Corp. intended for the town to move out by 2010.